Living the American dream is something we all want, especially the men and women who have answered their country’s call to military service and are now transitioning from their duty in the Armed Forces to a career in the civilian world.
In July of 2012, the American Red Cross made a commitment to hire 1,000 veterans over the next two years. As of June of this year, the Red Cross met and exceeded its goal by hiring 1013 veterans across the organization.
The Red Cross worked in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the “Hiring Our Heroes” program, a nationwide effort to assist veterans, transitioning military personnel and their spouses find employment. The veterans are contributing in nearly all of the Red Cross service lines, including local chapters, Biomedical Services, Disaster Cycle Services, Preparedness and Health and Safety Services, and other areas.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 there were approximately 2.8 million of the nation's 21.4 million veterans who served following September, 2001. Many continue to search for meaningful employment. For this reason, the Red Cross is renewing the Hiring Our Heroes partnership and setting a goal to hire 1200 veterans by the end of June 2017.
“The American Red Cross epitomizes the kind of working environment many of our nation’s veterans seek in their transition to the civilian workforce,” said Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Hiring Our Heroes. “We are thrilled to see the Red Cross meet their goal of hiring 1,000 veterans as part of our Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign with Capital One. It is a clear demonstration of their commitment to the men and women of our military, and provides a great opportunity for veterans to continue to serve.”
“I think it is critical that the Red Cross is part of the Hiring Our Heroes program,” said Adrienne Alberts, program manager for College and Workforce Inclusion Programs at the Red Cross. “By hiring transitioning vets, the Red Cross benefits from their unique skill sets, leadership capabilities and the mission focus of individuals who chose to serve their country.”
Alberts’ commitment to the military community is based on the fact that she is a self proclaimed “army brat.” Both her mother and father served in the U.S. Army. “Hiring Our Heroes serves as an extension of our relationship with the Armed Services community - the program and service offerings delivered through Services to the Armed Forces,” she said. “We are with our service members when they enlist, when they deploy, and as they transition out of service. It makes perfect sense that we would extend our relationship and commitment by recruiting some of those service members to formally join the ranks of the American Red Cross employee base.”
Although trained by the military to overcome challenges, it sometimes isn’t easy for veterans to enter the civilian workforce. Some have pointed out that it often takes extra time and determination to secure employment due to the current economic environment, competing with candidates who have been in the workforce longer.
That’s what happened to Chris Winchell, who has been working as a disaster fleet administrator at the Red Cross since May. Winchell is a former Army officer with a background in logistics and a specialty in transportation. He spent almost 5 years with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, Texas. Winchell served as a transportation platoon leader responsible for bulk distribution and transportation supporting an intelligence, communications and military police battalion of more than 300 soldiers. Chris later served as the logistics planner for the brigade’s deployment and redeployment of vehicles, equipment and personnel to southern Iraq. This involved supporting more than 3,500 soldiers.
“I served my country and decided that I wanted to make a change and try something new,” said Winchell. “When I separated from the Army, I began attending job fairs, sending out resumes and going for interviews. Now after more than two years, I have finally completed my transition from the military to a civilian career.”
“After three months in this position, I am happier than I have ever been professionally,” Winchell continued. “I have great job satisfaction with the Red Cross, both professionally with new opportunities to develop my skills and take on new tasks, as well as personally in knowing that I wake up and go into work every day to support the logistics of an organization whose mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies”.
When asked what advice he’d give to veterans transitioning out of the military and job searching, Winchell said, “be determined and if you want to up the odds, make yourself stand out. As an officer or senior enlisted/non-commissioned officer, the hardest part is to not highlight your accomplishments in the military, but to highlight how your leadership and management experience. This can directly impact the position and organization you are applying with.”